The Herald Bulletin

February 19, 2014

'Magic Flute': Sweet romances and conniving adversaries

In Review

By Scott L. Miley
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Love is special when it's pure. And don't trust serpents — animal or otherwise.

Those premises open and close Mozart's romantic opera, "The Magic Flute." Between those bookends, there are sweet romances and conniving adversaries. The production comes together well at Anderson University's Byrum Hall where performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday.

Sadly, this is director Laurel Goetzinger's last opera at Anderson University. She is retiring as a music professor in May. But it is a fitting finale to her career here — The Magic Flute" was her first production in 1999.

The tale spun here can wander into a back-and-forth between the supporters of a sorcerer and the Queen of the Night. The plot begins with the queen's daughter, Pamina, having been kidnapped by sorcerer Sarastro. A young prince, Tamino, is assigned to find her. He is joined by a simple beggar, Papageno. Both men are seeking wives.

It is easy to follow the plot, particularly in the colorful and light-hearted first act. The second act turns dark as romances are threatened, even to the point of characters pondering suicide.

Oh, and the flute. If you don't know, the flute is given to Tamino as he begins his journey. Its blissful sounds will carry them through their trip and changes sorrow into joy.

The opera doesn't work without an Act 2 soaring aria by the Queen of the Night. Coloratura soprano Carron Von Groningen's performance as the queen is one by a virtuoso. She tackles the aria's difficulty — the words twist with cadence — with command.

As Papageno, Chris Chazez II is confident and natural in presenting his character's innocence and search for pure love.

The romance between Tamino and Pamina is convincing (though it takes forever for them to meet) thanks to the dedication of Vernon Shelton and Olivia Hacker. Hacker is also a gem; her phrasing is lovely notably when she sings of grief over the possible loss of Tamino's affection.

Indeed, this "Magic Flute" is a triumph for the women in the cast.

The orchestra, led by Fritz Robertson, is on point throughout, capturing the lightness of the first act and the threatening tone in the second. The scenery is stark, leaving much to the imagination though some of that envisioning is presented fluidly in choreography directed by Shauna Steele. Light bulbs hanging from overhead represent stars. The dim illumination adds to the haunting lyrics and brings out actors' faces in certain stances.

Contact Scott L. Miley at scott.miley@heraldbulletin.com or (765) 648-4230.